Is government a model business?

I am a firm believer that government should lead by example; they should set the bar. Sometimes this happens and other times it is a little more challenging.

One area in which government sets the bar is litigation, where it is expected to be a model litigant. This means acting honestly and fairly when dealing with issues - for example, by responding quickly, not causing unnecessary delays and, where possible, resolving matters before they go to court.

Given this, I believe it is reasonable to expect government to demonstrate model behaviour in other activities, in particular, when behaving as a business.

Government as a model business study

In my opinion, by being a leader and setting the bar for business behaviour, government can strengthen ties with Australian businesses and improve the overall business environment.

In this light, my office has started a study to identify the characteristics of a model business and how these might be adapted and adopted by government.

What is a model business?

A photograph of Parliament HouseIn phase one of our study, we wrote to leaders of Australian businesses and engaged Deloitte Private to find out the behaviours expected of a model business. Four key commitments were identified that a model business should strive toward. They are to:

  • Establish a clear direction and robust strategy;
  • Develop and sustain relationships with stakeholders;
  • Put people first and engage with staff; and
  • Measure outcomes and evaluate success.

More information and a copy of the phase one report is available on the ASBC website at www.asbc.gov.au/reports/ModelBusiness.

Can government be a model business?

We are currently exploring our phase one findings with leaders of government agencies. We want to know what they think of the identified model business characteristics and commitments and how they could apply to government when it behaves as a business.

So far, the government leaders have been responsive to the study and willing to engage with the idea of a model business. The report for this phase will be released shortly.

Where to from here?

Our overall aim is to have a positive influence on government to business interactions and to improve the business environment.

After phase two, it will be go time and we will be looking to government agencies to be an exemplar of business behaviour by demonstrating leadership and adopting the principles of a model business.

Mark Brennan is the Australian small business commissioner.

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